The Federal Government’s controversial data retention policy passed through the House of Representatives last night.
The Coalition reached a deal with the Opposition on amendments to protect journalists’ call and internet logs from being accessed in certain circumstances.
The new legislation includes the creation of a Public Interest Advocate who will be able to argue against authorities’ requests for journalists’ metadata to determine the public’s “best interest”. However, intelligence agencies such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation will not be subject to such constraints and will still be able to access metadata without a warrant.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull encouraged both parties to support journalists’ right to source confidentiality, and emphasised the importance of this in an Australia’s democracy.
“The work that journalists do is just as important in our democracy as the work that we do as legislators, but journalists are subject to the law like everybody else”, he said.
Mr Turnbull said many concerns about the scope of the bill were misguided.
“The bill does not grant law enforcement or security agencies any new powers in the way they access metadata of journalists or anyone else,” he said. “Agencies have been able to access this type of data for more than 20 years.”
The Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, however, said in a media release on their party’s website that the Greens were opposed to the “mass surveillance regime” the major parties supported,
“Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten have done a backroom deal on internet and smartphone surveillance laws and said to the public and the parliament ‘just trust us’,” Mr Bandt said.
“We will make sure that this bill will be hard-fought in the Senate and it is time for those backbench Labor and Liberal senators who have concerns to speak out and not just surrender without question,” Senator Ludlam said.
The data retention bill will go before the Senate next week – Benjamin Potter
Top photo from Greens MP’s Flickr photostream.